In its latest diplomatic effort to develop consensus on the way forward for Afghanistan, Pakistan hosted a meeting of regional intelligence chiefs on Saturday. While there was no official statement that was put out regarding the meeting, reports reveal that the meeting was attended by officials from Russia, China, Iran and some Central Asian states. Islamabad’s relentless efforts to sustain engagement with Afghanistan must be lauded. Over the past few days, it has hosted meetings of the foreign ministers of the six neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and that of their special envoys, to develop a common regional strategy on dealing with challenges during the ongoing transition in Afghanistan.
These initiatives undoubtedly reflect Pakistan’s sincerity for peace in the region and Afghanistan. This latest meeting hosted by the ISI chief is also significant in the context of the possible negative fallout of instability in Afghanistan on its neighbours. Regional countries are right concerned about the security situation along their borders because of terrorist outfits using Afghan soil for launching attacks on other countries, the spread of extremism, drug trafficking, and possible influx of refugees. As it is, Pakistan has already begun to experience some of this fallout.
Given the myriad challenges that need to be tackled, it is crucial that the world—regional countries in particular—do not abandon Afghanistan. old lenses need to be discarded and there is a need to develop a new strategy which reflects the ground realities in Afghanistan.
Officials in Islamabad have rightly pointed out that a policy of intimidation and coercion has always failed in Afghanistan. Prioritising the well-being of Afghan citizens who have suffered from war for far too long, international engagement, opposed to international isolation, is the best path forward. This is all the more important considering the dire economic situation in Afghanistan at the moment. An economic collapse has to be avoided as it will create further instability and chaos in the country and surrounding region. This is a collective challenge and all hands on deck are needed.
Source: Published in The Nation on 13th September 2021